CANBERRA, AAP – Climate experts are calling for much stronger emissions-reduction targets for Australia to ensure global warming remains well below two degrees Celsius.
Global temperatures are about 1.1C higher than the pre-industrial era average and the Climate Council expects 1.5C of warming to occur during the 2030s regardless of whether large amounts of greenhouse gases are removed from the atmosphere.
The council has looked at the latest science and observations to recommend aiming for net zero emissions by 2035.
A midway target of reducing emissions by 75 per cent on 2005 levels by 2030 is also recommended in the Climate Council’s new report released on Thursday.
The Climate Council was set up after the Abbott government abolished the Climate Commission in 2013.
Climate scientist Will Steffen was a member of that commission and now conducts research for the Climate Council.
He concedes the new targets are a “hugely challenging goal” but says Australia has the necessary building blocks and the relevant technologies are advancing.
Professor Steffen says 15 to 20 years of temperature rise has been locked in, with every tenth of a degree of warming a considerable concern.
“We are stressing the earth’s system at an extraordinary rate,” he said.
He is particularly concerned about the rate of sea-level rise, forest dieback and thawing permafrost.
The 1.5 and 2C warming limit goals are central to the Paris Agreement, which say those caps are needed to prevent more devastation to the environment.
Nations have been asked to resubmit their emissions-reduction targets ahead of a major United Nations climate conference this November, to be held in Glasgow.
Australia’s goal under the Paris agreement is to reduce emissions by 26 to 28 per cent on 2005 levels by 2030, a target scientists have long said is not ambitious enough.
As well as the boosted targets Professor Steffen says the government should not expand the fossil-fuel industry.
“That’s an absolute must,” he says.
He says a plan should be created to support fossil-fuel workers as the economy shifts to clean energy.
The report also looks overseas, pointing to emissions increases in India, Russia and China – the world’s biggest emitter.
China has recently committed to net zero emissions by 2060 and has started planning how it will achieve that.
The United States is committed to net zero by 2050 and President Joe Biden is set to announce a more ambitious 2030 target.
A group of more than 10 organisations including Greenpeace, Oxfam, Pacific church groups and the Australia Institute are urging Prime Minister Scott Morrison to announce a tougher emissions reduction target at the summit.
They say global emissions must be cut in half by 2030, urging Australia to play its part.
Federal Labor has promised an energy and climate road map, which is expected to include midway targets as it plots a plan to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.